Take the time to do the following four times a year when the seasons change and you won't find yourself calling for a tow. Print this and take it out to the car.
Tires - In addition to the below, check you tires' air pressure once a month.
___1) Check for uneven wear - this may give you early
warning of suspension
Windshield wipers - Replace them if cracked or stiff. (Them, not you.)
Exterior lights - With the help of someone else or in the reflection of a window, check all lights.
___License plate light
Under The Hood
___1) Coolant - Make sure it works (get a tester or
have your mechanic test
it) and is full. Be careful to fill when the engine is cold and only
to the designated
level. Newer cars will have a reservoir so you don't
have to open the radiator.
3) Other fluids
___ Motor oil - Check level
4) - ___Radiator and heater hoses - Look for cracks, leaks (especially around the clamps) and brittle hoses. Err on the side of caution - if in doubt, replace it. Confirm the clamps are tight. Don't forget the lower radiator hose.
5) - Filters
___ Air - How long since you replaced it?
6) - Battery
___ 7) Belts - Check for cracks, brittleness and proper tension
___ Horn - Oh, you probably know whether it works or not.
Also, probably so obvious I shouldn't need to mention it - do your preventive maintenance per the schedule in your owner's manual. Especially be aware of when you need to replace your timing belt, if you have one. It's usually at 60,000 miles. Don't wait for this to break before replacing it. It can destroy your engine. And because life is unpredictable, look into the availability of a road side service program. More and more auto manufacturers are providing these for their customers or consider one you pay for yourself, such as AAA.